As he made contact, the guy let out a loud grunt as he slammed into the tile. His head hit the floor and bounced up. Porter heard the gun clatter to the floor, but that wasn’t enough. With a sharp punch, he jabbed the guy in the ribs. This guy had tried to kill Lizzy, or scare the hell out of her, twice.
The dark haired guy began to struggle and even though Porter would have loved to beat the shit out of him, he wrenched one arm up and twisted him over until he was face down. When he tried to fight Porter, he raised the arm higher so that if the guy moved, his arm would snap. A dark part of Porter wouldn’t mind if the guy’s arm broke. It wouldn’t be punishment enough.
Out of the corner of Porter’s eye he watched Lizzy picking up the fallen gun. A quick glance at her made his gut clench. She looked almost frozen with shock. Her eyes were wide and her face even paler than before. “Are you okay, Porter?” Her voice was wobbly and watery and damn it, he wanted to slam this guy’s head into the tile again for that.
“I’m fine, honey. Get behind that aisle and keep the gun close to you.” He nodded with his head, hoping she’d follow directions. Once she was out of sight, he glanced over his shoulder at the door. He twisted the gang member’s body so that they were facing the front of the store and Porter’s back wasn’t exposed.
Porter looked at the sales clerk who was just gaping at them. “Call the police.”
His words seemed to snap her out of her trance. Nodding, she scrambled with her cell phone and dialed.
Porter was about to tell Lizzy to get their driver when he spotted the guy rushing toward the front door. “I called the cops when I saw what was going on. I’ll stand watch by the door,” he said quietly as soon as he was inside.
Porter nodded silent thanks. In case this shithead’s friends were around, he needed someone to watch his back. Underneath him the guy was muttering curses about how this was a big mistake but Porter ignored him.
Porter would have liked to tell their driver to put Lizzy in the SUV but he didn’t want her outside and out of his sight. He needed her close.
All Porter cared about was getting Lizzy back to his place. While he wanted to know what the hell had gone wrong with the sting operation to bring down Orlando, it was on the backburner of his mind right now. Lizzy was obviously in shock from her brother’s death and he needed to get her to safety before the numbness faded and the true grief set in. Unfortunately he knew that they’d be stuck dealing with questions and would have to make statements. When he risked a glance in her direction, he wished he hadn’t. She was peering around the aisle he’d told her to duck behind, staring at the gang member on the floor.
Dried tears marked down her face, leaving trails of mascara smudged under her eyes. Her face was pale and her dark eyes full of sorrow.
What Porter wouldn’t give to gather her into his arms and just hold her. He inwardly cursed as he pinned the gang member to the floor. Somehow he was going to help Lizzy get through this.
It felt like an eternity passed, but minutes later blue and red flashing lights filled the parking lot. Almost immediately a stocky patrolman took the gang member into custody. The punk cursed at the cop telling him this was all a big misunderstanding as he was being dragged from the store. Considering there were three witnesses and if the video surveillance worked, further proof of what he’d been about to do, Porter wasn’t concerned about the guy. The gang member would be going to jail for a long time.
But that was the least of his worries right now. Men and women in uniform milled in and out of the store and even though Lizzy shrugged Porter’s arm off when he tried to embrace her, she stayed near him, watching everything unfold around them.
After answering a couple dozen questions over and over, the cops finally let them go without taking them down to the station for questioning. Porter knew the only reason they were being let go was because of his brother Grant and because Porter worked for Red Stone Security. They hired a lot of off duty cops for local security work and had a good working relationship with the department.
Once they were let go, he settled Lizzy into the back seat and slid in next to her. “It’s too soon to go back to your place, Lizzy. Not until we know if Orlando has called off his dogs. Considering what happened at the gas station…Ah, do you want to go to my home or a hotel or a safe house?” He’d take her any damn place she pleased as long as it wasn’t her home. That was just too dangerous.
“Take me to my parents.” Her voice was monotone as she stared out the window at the patrol cars and police officers.
“Don’t call me honey! Don’t…just don’t. I want to go to my parent’s house.” Her voice broke on the last word, absolutely shredding him.
Porter glanced at the driver and gave him the address. Once they steered out of the parking lot, he turned back to her. She still only gave him her profile, refusing to glance in his direction. “I’m so sorry about Benny.”
She whipped around to look at him, tears in her eyes. “Don’t say his name. I don’t want to talk about him with you. I just want to…” Now the tears started falling. Turning in her seat, she gave him her back. Her fragile shoulders shook with each silent sob, breaking his heart.
He started to place a comforting hand on her back, but stopped himself at the last moment. She’d made it clear she didn’t want his help. Feeling more helpless than he ever had—including when he’d been in the Marines and had been left behind enemy lines for two months without a way to contact his team—he sat there staring at her, unable to do a damn thing.
When they made it to her parent’s house, she got out of the vehicle without a backward glance at him. While he wanted to chase after her he knew it would be a fruitless effort. He couldn’t force her to let him comfort her. To take care of her. If he tried she’d just push him further away than she already had.
Feeling numb, he instructed the driver to take him down to the station. He knew that’s where Grant would be and he planned to get answers about what had gone wrong tonight and why Lizzy’s brother was dead.
One week later
Lizzy shut the front door of her house and sagged against it. After Benny’s funeral, then the gathering at her parent’s house afterward, she just wanted to sink to the floor and sleep for days. There had been too many people there. Most of whom hadn’t even known her brother or cared about him. But they’d come because her parents were wealthy and well known in Miami.
She’d been staying at her parent’s house since then. Porter had continued to call her and she’d talked to him a few times, but she couldn’t bear to see him. Or to be alone with him. He made her happy and was so damn understanding about everything and she didn’t want that right now. She didn’t have a right to be in love and happy when Benny was dead.
At least Orlando was in prison, as were the gang members who had targeted her on his behalf. The cops didn’t think they’d be a threat to her anymore because she wasn’t going to have to testify against them. They’d turned on Salas and had cut a deal so her testimony wasn’t necessary. Part of that deal had meant admitting guilt to coming after her. It was the only way the state’s attorney would even consider a deal for less jail time. Considering they had one of the guys on video at that gas station drawing his weapon on her, taking a deal had been the smart move.
And Orlando had a hell of a lot more problems than her at the moment. She wasn’t even a blip on his radar now that news of his little black book had gotten out. Apparently many of his competitors were feeling very homicidal over it. If he was lucky he’d survive his imprisonment and stay in as long as he could, because if he got out, he wouldn’t last long on the outside. Though something told her that he wouldn’t be untouchable in jail. If someone wanted him dead bad enough, it would happen.
And if something happened to him she sure wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. Especially since she had some homicidal thoughts herself considering Benny had been killed because of him. She still hadn’t received a straight answer on who shot her brother, but he’d been gunned down in the crossfire between Orlando and the Miami PD at the marina. One of Orlando’s men had apparently seen one of the SWAT members and things had gone crazy in seconds.
As she pushed away from her slumped position at the door, the bell rang and she nearly jumped out of her skin. Peering through the peephole, she saw two men in black suits and someone in between them. He was wearing a hoodie and…Lizzy’s heart stopped for a moment. She jerked the door open, trying to catch her breath.
Before she could move or speak, the two men in suits barreled past her, dragging her with them until they shut the door. But she didn’t even mind being manhandled. Not when she was staring at Benny.
Unless he was a ghost and she’d officially lost her mind…Reaching out, she shoved the hoodie back and touched his face.
Benny’s smile was tentative as he stepped forward. “I’m so sorry, sis,” he whispered.
Unable to stop herself, she threw her arms around Benny’s neck and squeezed hard. Her throat was too tight to speak and if this was all a dream, she didn’t want to wake up. When she eventually tried to talk, nothing came out except for tears which streamed down her cheeks.
She wasn’t sure how much time passed, but eventually Benny took her arms and entangled himself from her. “I don’t have much time—”
“We need to talk and you need to listen, ma’am,” one of the men in suits who she’d forgotten was even there, said softly.
Wiping at the tears that just wouldn’t seem to stop, she turned and nodded. “Okay,” she said in a raspy voice. Grabbing Benny’s hand, she motioned to the living room and pulled him with her. She refused to let go of his hand. Was afraid that if she did, he’d disappear.
The two men entered first and one of them drew her blinds shut. With wobbly legs, she made her way to the long couch and sat, pulling her brother with her. “I thought you were dead. I went to your funeral.” Her voice cracked and she had to swallow hard before continuing. “Does anyone else know about this? Do Javier and Santos? They were heartbroken at your—”